Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Still Here

Well, that was a painfully long absence. Not, I'm sure, for any readers I may still have left, but for my lazy, procrastinating, and very sorry self. There are a few mitigating factors, such as working extra shifts, having stomach flu, visiting relatives and such, but I have blogged through worse. I have no excuse.
But, thankfully, I do have a few things to share. Last Friday, I attended Barb Mortell's Improv Quilting Class at the Denman Island Creative Threads Conspiracy. What fun!

 It was held at the Denman Community Hall, a great big space that was divided up beautifully by free-standing quilt hangers. The organizers had hung fabric bunting, too, so the whole place looked welcoming and festive. There were, amazingly, six workshops going on at the same time, and it made for a great feeling of energy.
The Round Robin approach (based on Sherri Lynn Wood's concept) to creating our quilt tops was fun, but we were all very tired by the time 3:00 rolled around. Each of the eleven participants had brought a basket of cloth to work with, and began by creating their own first block. Then, the block would be passed to the next person, along with the basket of fabric. We were to engage with the block, and respond to it as we would if it was a conversation, only with fabric instead of words.

This process continued until we had all worked on each other's quilt top. It was quite exciting to see the results.





One the way home, it was interesting how I started seeing quilt tops in everything, even the gate to the ferry ramp.
And I haven't forgotten about the Codex Canadensis embroidery. I have half an elk to do and I will be almost finished. Wouldn't you know it though, I ran out of yarn. I have been using Paternayan crewel yarn in one particular colour (shade 460). As I wrote about a while back, Paternayan is now being produced by a new company, with the same master dyer, and I didn't anticipate any significant difference. But the new batch arrived and I hate to say it - there is a noticeable difference. The yarn is almost half the thickness of the old stock. It may be due to the kind of fleece they are using - a bit softer, finer - but combine that with a different dye lot and whoa! The yarn is still very nice, and totally usable for other projects, but I can't have half an elk looking kind of weird.
Of course, it's the kind of difference I am very sensitive to since I have gone through at least 40 skeins since starting. My fingers told me there was something off before my eyes did. It could be that nobody else would notice. But I am the captain of this particular ship and IT MUST BE DONE RIGHT. So now I am using a mixture of old stock shade 470 (slightly redder than 460) and one, sometimes two strands of the new stock 460 in an attempt to get the same overall colour and texture. Urrghh.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wet Coast Mandala

Breathe.

Studio Tour Flyby

Here's the set up before we opened. We had almost 100 visitors a day for three days. I'm still exhausted. When one works quietly with only the dog for company it's a bit of a shock to suddenly interact with so many people. But I had very positive conversations and people seemed interested in my work.
 Siki McIvor very graciously asked me to share space in her home studio. Siki is an amazing felter and dyer.
 She had a table of gorgeous reversible fingerless gloves and gauntlets. Check out her website for more lovelies.
 She had a delightful assortment of hats, scarves, tops and even a seamless felted jacket. Many of which sold.

Words fail me. Catch ya next week!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Mercedes of Measuring Tapes

So, I confess to having been caught up in the thrill of the Maiwa workshop and the very generous 20% discount coupon included with the registration. Even though my shelves and bins are bursting with supplies, I thought maybe there might be a few things to stock up on. Off to Maiwa Supply I went.

Oops. They are now carrying the Merchant and Mills line of notions. Pure fetish objects for the textile enthusiast. I was able to convince my swooning brain that I really didn't need a $60 leather needle case, no matter how understatedly elegant. But I couldn't resist the $10 measuring tape. Goodness knows, I have a house full of measuring tapes and can I ever manage to find one when I need it?

After I returned home and the fever dream had worn off, I looked inside my shopping bag to inspect the measuring tape. It is indeed the finest measuring tape I have ever laid hands on. That being said, as long as it's accurate, what's the real difference between the M&M and the 99 cent Fabricland model ?

Well, it's made in Germany rather than China. The metal tabs on the ends are particularly nicely finished. The tape is a little bit wider than the discount version, but oddly, it's not quite as long (150 centimeters or 59 inches as opposed to 152 and 60). Both are made of heavy plasticized material. Accuracy? Identical. I like the white on black look of the M&M Imperial side, but I can't say it's any easier to read than the Chinese cheapo.

Conclusion? I feel a little sheepish for having been seduced into such an extravagance, but I suppose there are worse impulse buys. And you can bet I'll be measuring the bejesus out of things to make sure I get my money's worth. That is, as long as it doesn't migrate to the mysterious drawer where all the other measuring tapes live.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Beware the Offhand Comment

Dip, Dip and Swing (2015) embroidery on birch bark, mixed media
So, I dropped off the above piece to the Hive Emporium as my token artwork for "Tour Central". All the artists on the tour are supposed to put in one piece so potential studio visitors can plan their rounds. I have shown this work before, and wrote about it a few months back. I admit it's a bit enigmatic without the artist statement, but the last thing I expected the curator to say was, "How sweet."

I could have whacked her.

#1 on the list of things not to say to artists should be "How sweet." It's even worse than "Interesting."

If I had my wits about me I should have responded, "Well, no, actually it's about the way the English and the French exploited the First Nations people to make money for themselves."

But, I was polite (it's still the Canadian way, in spite of that ass of a Prime Minister we are burdened with for the next sixteen days). I just went, "Mmmnn" and forgave the curator on the grounds that she was probably  overworked and overwhelmed at having to fit 59 pieces of art into 40 feet of wall space.

And maybe if the art doesn't speak for itself, it's the problem of the artist. I usually err on the side of the obscure. Maybe this should be a lesson to me.

"Sweet!?!"

As if.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Pink is Just a Colour

I wasn't waiting to post just so the anticipation would grow. You can all exhale now and be reassured that I have just been busy trying to get ready for the studio tour. My Maiwa workshop report may not be the showstopper I would love to give you, but I have the feeling that the slow and subtle approach is better anyway.

First off in the Memory Cloth workshop, Beverly Gordon gave us a lovely welcome and began with an invocation, a blessing that created a nurturing, safe space for us to work in. It felt very warm and genuine, and as I'm not surprised as I look back on those two days and I realize that of all the Maiwa workshops I have taken, this was the only one I felt no competition or defensiveness with or from the other participants. (That may sound a little weird, but in the past I have felt like a token country mouse amongst the apparently wealthy, well-traveled matrons of exclusive suburbs. But that's another post.) ( And I have to clarify here, I'm sure that attitude was much more of a problem from my end than theirs.) It was a lovely, varied group of women with a high-level range of skill and experience.

Beverly showed lots of slides of the many ways people from around the world have commemorated, celebrated or found catharsis in expressing themselves through cloth. From the South African Truth and Reconciliation embroideries to the arpilleras of Chile to contemporary "Passage Quilt" making workshops led by Sherri Lynn Wood, people have found healing in stitching. It was an inspiring slide show. Beverly then had us do a few writing exercises to help get the vivid details of memories flowing.

It wasn't until after lunch that we finally got to work. Beverly and Maiwa had supplied all the materials and tools we would need. Some of us had brought materials of our own to work with as well. I had brought a little handknit dress that my mother alleged I had worn as a one or two year-old. I have no memories of wearing the dress and there aren't any old photos to back up her story, but it has resided in my cedar chest for the last twenty-odd years,  ever since she had been going through some things and decided the dress could live with me.
Sorry, this story is getting long. I'll cut to the chase. Turns out that when I had been visiting Val Galvin at her rug hooking studio last June, I saw this list of "97 Ways to Encourage and Praise a Child" on her fridge door. Val was retiring from twenty-five years as a daycare provider and I could just imagine how much her kids would have loved her relaxed, open-hearted, cheery way of being. At the same time my heart sank a little when I though how much I would have loved to have heard a little more positive encouragement as a child. It just wasn't done back then. Too much praise would spoil a child, give them a big head, and make them think too well of themselves. No one had ever heard of such a thing as self-esteem, and if you had a time machine to go back and explain the concept to them, there would be nothing but derision.

So in the days before the workshop I took the little pink dress out of the cedar chest and printed out the photo of Val's list that my friend Roberta snapped for me. I thought I might embroider some of the positive words on the dress in an offering of love and support for the wee Heather still inside me.
It went pretty much as planned. I decided on the shiny perle cotton in a variety of lipstick-y colours as I thought it would contrast well with the slightly felted pale pink wool. What surprised me was the memory of the Raggedy Anne doll my mom had made me that had a red heart over her chest, embroidered with the words, "I Love You". I needle felted a red heart and appliqued it over the bodice of the dress.
I also felt rather sheepish embroidering the positive words, reminded of Stuart Smalley's affirmations on SNL. Wasn't this all a little silly? I noticed myself thinking, "I can't embroider "Super Star!" Maybe I will say something more neutral like, "How imaginative", without an exclamation mark. Then I felt a little sad, thinking, "My God, if I can't even stand up for myself! Who the hell else is going to?"
For all the talk with interesting table mates and nicely paced check-ins by Beverly to see how we were doing, it was a fairly internal process. I didn't get as much done as I hoped, and it took several more hours on my own before I finished. I chose to stitch it at work (I have a part-time job at a neighbourhood liquor store. It's pretty slow, and I'm allowed to stitch. To ally my concerns about working in an environment that may play in to my co-dependent tendencies, I use needlework as a means of balancing the forces of good and evil.)
Anyways, stitching on the little dress created the opportunity for me to engage in non-alcohol-related conversations with my customers about "What was I working on now?" One guy, a talented artist who has battled the elements, was visibly moved by the dress. "Yeah, you've gotta say those things to yourself," he murmured.
Only tonight, as I was lucky to be in the audience listening to the mind-boggling artistry of John Kameel Farah, did I realize that my latest bout of insomnia had eased. Awake, during those 3 AM rounds of self-flagellation, I couldn't sleep, going over my various transgressions of life in excruciating detail. Since finishing the dress, my wakefulness has diminished. My ruminations, if they occur, are mostly about recent events.

Well, I've gone off on quite a tangent. Hardly anything at all about the wonderful things my fellow participants shared. And they say bloggers are narcissists.

P.S. Looking at the dress, I think of it as "She". I have a relationship with her. The words are directly about relationship: "You mean a lot to me", or observational: "You tried hard". There is always an implied relationship contained in encouraging words -  the inner/outer, the parent/teacher/child, the subject and the object. I like that.